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Working with volunteers in Hull, UK, Giroscope buys and renovates empty properties to provide secure, affordable homes for disadvantaged people, helps people back into work, and is making the city a brighter place to live.

With Hull looking forward to celebrating its 2017 UK Capital of Culture status, an award-winning local housing charity is playing a leading role in helping to improve life for those in areas with high levels of deprivation and unemployment, regenerating communities towards a better future.

Giroscope’s innovative work alongside partner Canopy Housing in Leeds has just been recognised with a 2015–16 World Habitat Award. They are the first UK winners of this global award in more than a decade. Giroscope lets its renovated properties to people in housing need. The charity aims to create more vibrant local communities from fragile neighbourhoods, ensuring that no-one feels isolated.

Martin Newman, Giroscope’s founder, said “The recent award is really exciting and recognises our work here in west Hull bringing back empty properties, providing decent housing and volunteering opportunities and generally helping to regenerate our neighbourhood. This is great news for Hull, especially with the Capital of Culture just around the corner.”

But what makes Giroscope really special is the way it supports its volunteers with work placements, offering the chance for disadvantaged people to gain valuable practical experience.

In a bid to overcome his past issues with drugs, Noel, 50, began volunteering with Giroscope after it was suggested by his probation officer.

“I wanted to get back into employment but was struggling, I had no qualifications,” he said. “Thanks to Giroscope, I’m now learning additional skills and getting qualifications. By volunteering, I’ve got my life back. I wake up every morning and I know I’ve found myself again.”

Andrew’s story is similar.

Following time in prison and a background of drug use, Andrew, 38, wanted to change his life and get back into employment, so he sought voluntary work and discovered Giroscope. As well as helping him to gain new skills on the job, he was supported to gain diploma qualifications in joinery, which he then added to with an NVQ.

“Giroscope are phenomenal, they give you the chance to learn all sorts of trades, develop communication skills and open doors to a completely different life”, said Andrew. “I’ve gained a trade, I can live independently and it’s benefited me and my children. Their help was endless and showed that if you put a seed in the ground, eventually, with your own hard work too, it’ll grow. I lived a life on the dark side but now I’m in the world; if other people knew there was this chance to change their lives they’d jump at it.”

Alongside developing a wide range of construction skills through the renovations, a support worker works with each volunteer to identify their aims, record progress and to help them apply for further work or training.

In this way Giroscope focuses on a long-term approach to helping solve people’s problems by simultaneously tackling a variety of the city’s social challenges – empty housing, unemployment and community regeneration – aiming to ensure that the positive effects of their work can be sustainable.

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